Momentum continued to swing back and forth on Wednesday night's episode of The Ultimate Fighter 18, as Team Rousey and Team Tate evened the score at three apiece on the heels of Michael Wootten's hard fought decision victory over Josh Hill.
Now Team Tate's No. 1 pick, Julianna Pena, returns for her weekly Q&A to offer her thoughts on Hill's loss, discuss the season's most divisive prank yet, and answer your questions in this week's TUF Mailbag. If you have any questions you'd like to ask the "Venezuelan Vixen" for next week, go ahead and write them in the comments below. Now without any further ado, let's talk to Julianna.
Al-Shatti: So when the episode opened up, and you saw Dana White telling Raquel Pennington that she could win the whole show, I'm curious, how did you feel? Because you said that exact same thing would "crush" you.
Pena: It did crush me a little bit. (Laughs.) I felt sad. But at the same time, he's running a business. He has great fights to put on, and so I don't blame him at all.
Al-Shatti: I know you've said in the past that Cody Bollinger is one of the main people who treated you poorly in the house. So tell me, what was going through your head when you watched his emotional breakdown on Father's Day?
Pena: Well, I thought it was kind of, like, a little bit of an act. Nobody bawls their eyes out and says their every thought out loud when they're having a mental breakdown. Just like, talking everything out, you know? Everybody missed their families. I'm not going to say that I think it was fake or that it wasn't real. It just was kind of weird.
Al-Shatti: Okay, the prank. Miesha and everybody put up a bunch of pictures of Fran Stalinovskovichdavidovitchsky from Dodgeball and labeled it "Edmond Rousey." First of all, who thought of it?
Pena: So (Dennis) Hallman came in at the end of practice. There was this Kinko's bag that had stuff in it. We're like, what's in the bag? He's like, ‘It's a secret.' Then he showed me. So towards the end of practice, we all went in there and watched them hang them up. It was pretty funny. It was just a joke.
Al-Shatti: Before you saw the episode, did you guys know Dana White came in to pull them all down?
Pena: Well we knew that they weren't going to let us keep them up, because right when we put them all up, they came in and said that the producers were making us take ‘em all down. That was due to the fact that the girls already promised Dana that they were going to stop with all the antics. They were continuing with the antics, so Dana just came down there and put the kibosh on that. He wasn't trying to have anymore drama or a fight ensue downstairs in the gym.
Al-Shatti: Just offhand, I can't recall another time that's happened in TUF history. That's bizarre in a way. So, you were there. Do you think it was the right call?
Pena: I don't know if that was the right call or not. With all of the posters that were put up, I don't know if their team (would've) come in, had a good laugh and just rolled with the punches. But yeah, it wasn't the most professional thing. I think it's a good thing that they prevented it from happening. I just wished that they would've gotten all of the pictures. There were so many put up around the gym, and then the only one that they don't take is in the sauna. So that kinda sucks that they didn't grab them all, because then you kind of just ruined the whole joke.
Al-Shatti: Well Ronda thought the whole thing was racist. Do you think it was racist?
Pena: I don't think it was racist. I don't think that was the intent, to be racist. Like what? Like all Armenian people are hairy or something? I think she just making fun of the fact that Edmond has dark facial hair, and has -- he doesn't even have a unibrow, but you know, they're just trying to find ways to kid around, to poke fun just because. They did a good job of keeping things fun and bubbly, but I think that some people might've taken it the wrong way.
Al-Shatti: Alright, moving past it, when Josh Hill missed his spinning backfist on Michael Wootten with 1:30 left in the last round and wound up on his back, did you get the sense the fight was over right there?
Pena: Yeah, absolutely. When he threw the second one, it was just like, ‘Oh no! Don't do it!' And then he did it, and he was down, and that was it. He closed his guard and was content to just lay there and not make a scramble to get to his feet, or anything like that.
Al-Shatti: You fought with such urgency against Shayna Baszler. I have to wonder, does it frustrate you to watch someone just kind of give in like that?
Pena: Absolutely. And that goes for all the fights. Even like with Raquel (Pennington) and Jessamyn (Duke), I just wanted them to finish. With Josh, too. It is very frustrating because I'm kinda like looking for the kill, you know? I try to push the pace in order to find that kill. And so it's frustrating when people don't scramble, or at least give up their back in order to create a scramble, so that they can cause something different to happen other than laying on their back.
Al-Shatti: Dana White really didn't like Josh's style at all. Obviously you're all trying to win, but it's also true that any fighter who impresses Dana with their ferocity is more likely to get another shot in the UFC. Is it hard to toe that balance when you're out there?
Pena: It is, because you don't want to be boring, and you know that when you're being dominant in a wrestling position, you know that you're winning. But at the same time, what's going through your mind is, ‘Alright, I need to keep working. I need to make it so that they don't stand me up. I need to make it so that it looks like an exciting fight.' So yeah, it's a happy medium. You want to be impressive, and you want to make it a good war, but at the same time you want to be dominant and you want to be controlling. You want to make sure that you win the fight. It's definitely a happy medium, but you always want to make sure that you're impressing Dana at the end of the day.
Bboyawall asks: I trained with Rocky at altitude back in the day, and she's a tough cookie, how did you get her in a dress? and I need you to help me understand why anyone would be mean to you?
Pena: Why anybody would be mean to me? Yeah, I have no idea. I still don't know how to answer that question. But getting Raquel in a dress was not that hard. (Laughs.) Once I showed the girls my dresses, and my heels and my jewelry, it looked so enticing. They were like, ‘Oh, I'd just look so pretty if I put that on.' (Laughs.) Like I said, they asked me to do it, and so I did their makeovers. But then afterwards they were like, oh, we need to get dressed up. They were more about the dress ups than I was! Like, okay, fine, I can help you out with that. I got this stuff here, I got these heels here, these go together, and you just put this together with this, and then there you go! Then they just kind of jumped in it and strutted their stuff down the pool runway. So it wasn't hard. She was all for it, let's just put it that way.
Roland Arredondo asks: Every person in the house is striving to make it into the UFC, but not everyone has what it takes to get in. What qualities do you possess that will help you succeed at that level of the fight game and what is it that drives you day after day?
Pena: That natural killer instinct. Sometime I see fighters that don't have that killer instinct, and I'm like, ‘Ugh, you don't even look like you want to hurt ‘em!' Almost like Fedor (Emelianenko), you know? I'm coming to kill and I'm coming to end the fight. Sometimes I see fights where it gets me frustrated because they're not doing the things that I'd do, ending the fight and not quitting, refusing to lose. Like, I got my arm dislocated in a fight halfway through a second round, and my arm was literally out of its socket and I was still fighting. When the doctor came in for the second round, they were like, ‘Your arm is dislocated.' I was like, ‘Put that s--t back in! Round three, right now!' They had to yank me from the cage. I wasn't going to stop.
And what is it that drives me day after day? I guess myself. I drive myself day after day. I have a passion to succeed and I want to do well. I think that I motivate myself. I see these other women fighting, and I know that I can do that. I know that I can hang with them. It just makes me want to be the best me that I can be. I just want everybody to be proud of me, and I just want to do well. That desire to do well is what pushes me everyday. I don't want to be no slouch.
Do you have a question for Julianna Pena? Ask it in the comments below and she'll answer you next week. The Ultimate Fighter 18 airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. Portions of this interview have been edited for concision.